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Title: Multi-Scale Drivers of Immunological Variation and Consequences for Infectious Disease Dynamics

The immune system is the primary barrier to parasite infection, replication, and transmission following exposure, and variation in immunity can accordingly manifest in heterogeneity in traits that govern population-level infectious disease dynamics. While much work in ecoimmunology has focused on individual-level determinants of host immune defense (e.g., reproductive status and body condition), an ongoing challenge remains to understand the broader evolutionary and ecological contexts of this variation (e.g., phylogenetic relatedness and landscape heterogeneity) and to connect these differences into epidemiological frameworks. Ultimately, such efforts could illuminate general principles about the drivers of host defense and improve predictions and control of infectious disease. Here, we highlight recent work that synthesizes the complex drivers of immunological variation across biological scales of organization and scales these within-host differences to population-level infection outcomes. Such studies note the limitations involved in making species-level comparisons of immune phenotypes, stress the importance of spatial scale for immunology research, showcase several statistical tools for translating within-host data into epidemiological parameters, and provide theoretical frameworks for linking within- and between-host scales of infection processes. Building from these studies, we highlight several promising avenues for continued work, including the application of machine learning tools and phylogenetically controlled meta-analyses to more » immunology data and quantifying the joint spatial and temporal dependencies in immune defense using range expansions as model systems. We also emphasize the use of organismal traits (e.g., host tolerance, competence, and resistance) as a way to interlink various scales of analysis. Such continued collaboration and disciplinary cross-talk among ecoimmunology, disease ecology, and mathematical modeling will facilitate an improved understanding of the multi-scale drivers and consequences of variation in host defense.

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Award ID(s):
1656618 1656551
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Integrative and Comparative Biology
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
p. 1129-1137
Oxford University Press
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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